Tag Archives: The Terrace

Forgotten buildings: The Terrace

The last couple of posts have been a bit of a departure from my recent blog activity, hanging around Kensington High Street. We’re back on track this week moving across Wright’s Lane from Scarsdale House to a forgotten group of buildings called the Terrace.

By the Terrace I mean 129-163 Kensington High Street. Here’s a panoramic view from 1978.

The Terrace - 129-163 Kensington High Street 1978 K3051-B

This is the southern side of Kensington High Street between where Boots is now, and Hotel Chocolat, or in 1978 the Adam and Eve pub which was then just to the west of the covered entrance to Adam and Eve Mews. You could get lost looking at shop names like Scotch House, Barratts, Jean Machine, Salisburys, Saxone, Dorothy Perkins and..er..Saxone (two of them, with different shop fronts?), and by all means do that. We’ll have a further look at the 70s shops of the High Street on another occasion but I wanted to show you this picture to say that’s all relatively modern stuff. It was built by our old friend Jubal Webb in the 1890s. The Survey of London with its usual ear for a telling phrase describes the Promenade as it was originally known as “an orthodox, restless, ornamental range  of shops and flats”. This tells you what you need to know (and it’s why I keep reading the small print in the Survey). I see those buildings every working day from the bus stop opposite and have become fascinated by the repeating pattern of the roof line.

But before the Promenade was the Terrace:

The Terrace Kensington High Street 19th C K62-194

The Terrace (or the Terrass as it was known in the 1760s) emerged piecemeal between the 1690s and the 1840s, a series of houses which grew together over the years. So not a classic terrace as we know them today but one of the first blocks of dwellings to have that term applied to them. The Survey also tells us that the original houses were “as commodious and respectable as any of their contemporaries in Kensington Square”. (We’ll get there another day.)

I used a couple of pictures of the Terrace by the H and R Stiles company in a previous post. This is number 1:

The Terrace 1 GN242

(If you do look back at that previous post you’ll see a crucial difference between the picture I used then and this one. ) Numbers 1, 2 and 3 were the oldest, dating back to the early 1690s although a little altered over the years.

This is number 2 and number 3.

The Terrace 2-3 GN246

The windows looked a little mismatched and the people at number 3 have left their gate open. The lamp post has the word Kensington above the light indicating that it was provided by the Kensington Vestry.

The slightly ramshackle quality continues as you go along the row.

The Terrace 4 GN243

Number 4 seems to have confusingly varied facades and more than one entrance.

Number 5 is a smaller house but still the work of Richard Beckington, the builder of the others.

The Terrace 5 GN247

Number 6 was added in 1718.

The Terrace 6 GN248

This was the home of the highly regarded Punch illustrator John Leech who died there in 1864 at the age of 47 after “a laborious life..the victim of overwork and an organisation morbidly sensitive to the small worries of town life, of spasm of the heart” according to Wilmot  Harrison in Memorable London Houses (1890)

A slouching youth lends some character to the photograph.

During the 19th century there was work on the facades and the gaps between the original houses were filled in by additional structures and some smaller houses. Other occupants of the Terrace included Sir Henry Cole and the artist David Wilkie.

However, I think the most interesting aspect of this group of houses is not what you saw from the High Street but what lay behind, where there were extensive gardens almost the length of Wright’s Lane and for the most part hidden behind high walls.

Here is Mr Leech’s garden.

Back of Leech's house 6 the Terrace GN40

The steps took you down into a large space where you could find some impressive trees.

Mulberry Tree behind the Terrace GN41

This one is a mulberry.

Willow tree in garden of 6 the Terrace GN95

This is a willow. Like at Scarsdale House these gardens show another kind of lifestyle. Their inhabitants enjoyed seclusion and leisure in large open spaces a little like those of the grand houses of Campden Hill.

There was also room for sport.

Garden behind the Terrace GN39

Is he trying to hit the gardener? Luckily he seems to be serving underarm.

You could of course just sit in your tranquil garden like the couple on the left.

Gardens behind the Terrace looking west GN108

Wait a moment. Who’s that?

Gardens behind the Terrace looking west Jubal Webb and wife GN108

It’s that man again, Jubal Webb, cheese magnate and owner of number two. Webb was a local vestryman and property developer. A slight hint of sleaze surrounds him but London was built in part by ambitious entrepreneurs like him. He does seem to have a gift for publicity though, and for sneaking in when you least expect him.

That would be it for the Terrace, except that I went looking for the original version of that panoramic view above and found it, more than a yard long.

It’s signed by Richard Stiles and dated 1892. At one end is a slightly clearer view of the woman in black I mentioned in the glass negative post.

The Terrace 9 detail from CPic092

Now that I’ve looked at a slightly clearer version I think she might be wearing a hat, which would make all the difference to her appearance and the conclusions you might draw about her. The condition of a print can completely alter a photograph, especially when you are dealing with details.

And at the other end there is a better view looking down Wright’s Lane, showing the shops on the corner.

The Terrace - Wright's Lane details of shops from CPic 092

You can see people heading down the road past the walls of Scarsdale House and in the foreground a slightly indistinct woman with a child in a pram is standing outside an early version of Derry and Toms. The lady with her back to us on the left is window shopping, her head hidden in the shadow of the awning on which the name Ponting’s can be seen. It’s another one of those images you’d like to step inside and have a look around.


Once again I have benefited from close scrutiny of the relevant Survey of London volume. Along with the information I have also collected some descriptive phrases which are one of the pleasures of the Survey.

Next week I’m taking a week off as we have a guest blogger.


Through the glass to Kensington High Street

In a quiet corner of the sub-basement is a cupboard. Inside are a set of shelves. Most of the space is taken up with ledgers from a chemist’s shop with lists of prescriptions. These records go up to the mid fifties so it will be a long time before the information in them is available for general use. Some years ago I inspected the cupboard once, and was satisfied, until I noticed some boxes on the bottom shelf which contained a set of glass negatives, a donation from a photographer’s studio. The negatives are in this cupboard simply to protect them from damage. I wondered if we could get paper prints off them. I then discovered that one of my predecessors had been there before me and done just that. I found the prints in an unassuming black archive box, clearly labelled but never before noticed by me. Archives are like that.

The pictures vary in quality but some of them are remarkably clear. They show a older version of central Kensington rather different from the one we know. Some buildings survive to this day. Others are gone.

Kensington High Street looking west GN9

Most of the buildings on the right are not there now. But you don’t always need the buidings to recognise the street. This is the unmistakeable early part of Kensington High Street as it curves one way to meet Kensington Church Street then changes direction again and heads towards Hammersmith.

The horse bus is run by the London General Omnibus Company. They were the first company to give the bus routes numbers. This bus is going from Hammersmith via Tottenham Court Road to King’s Cross. The numbers weren’t displayed yet but that makes it a number 10. These days one of the new Routemasters has the same number and follows pretty much the same route.

If you look carefully at the series of signs on the side of the white building you can see H and R Stiles. The same name is rendered in ironwork on top of the single storey shop front. Stiles were the photographer’s company which took all these pictures so their interest in the High Street is understandable. The Stiles brothers were on the top floor just above the Misses Roberts and Watson, corset makers, according to Kelly’s Directory 0f 1897.

Kensington High Street looking west 1893 GN4

In this 1893 picture you can see the opposite side of the street. The large building on the left is one of the first incarnations of the John Barker building. Is that man in the foreground wearing a baseball cap? Surely it’s not one of those careless time travellers? No, they had sporting caps in 1893 as well. He could probably get away with it today though. That’s probably not true of the woman right in the foreground with her back to the camera, literally holding onto her hat in a gesture that would have been typical of the rime.

Ten years later some demolition had taken place.

Kensington High Street north side looking weat 1903 GN157

This picture is also looking west as the same section of street is being widened. Orientation is slightly difficult because of the crane. It’s a fascinating object in itself but if you look carefully you can see that it is obscuring the tall spire of St Mary Abbot’s Church behind it.

The Stiles business moved to Campden Hill Road after the demolition. Quite by chance I noticed in the 1903 Kelly’s that Roberts and Watson moved to 231 Kensington High Street (in case you were concerned).

Let’s jump back to 1897, Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, when the local shops were decorated for the occasion.

Kensington High Street 11 Wilkins the Baker 1897l GN165

At Wilkins the bakers (number 11) you can see Mr Frederick John Wilkins, purveyor of bread to her Majesty, his delivery wagon with a couple of employees, his young son possibly and a random toff posed outside the corn merchants. The glass plate was broken in half and has been repaired. But have a look at the upstairs windows:

Kensington High Street 11 Wilkins the Baker 1897 detail GN165

At the lower right hand window you can see a rather grim looking old woman whom I take to be Mr Wilkins’ mother. Look at the window above her and you can see a younger woman, possibly Mrs Wilkins the wife. I wonder what family drama took place before the two ladies decided which window they would stand at?  If I had a choice in the matter I would have followed Mrs Wilkins’ example and secured a seperate window.Of course I could be reading too much into it. Make your own mind up.

The John Barker company had several seperate shops in this part of the street. In between two of them were the premises of Mr Jubal Webb, provision merchant.

Mammoth Cheese 1893 GN232

Mr Webb might be the gentleman with the beard superving the mammoth cheese from Canada so big you need to serve yourself with a shovel.

The picture below is a few years later when the venerable Town Hall Tavern had been acquired by Derry and Toms for their expansion, as the signs announce.

Town Hall Tavern GN 138

How long after that did the handy cigarette kiosk survive?

The Town Hall is just visible on the right of this picture, along with the church spire again.

Kensington High Street looking east from Hornton Street 1911GN156

I can also make out the Vestry Hall next to the Town Hall where the first Kensington Library was located, the Aerated Bread Company, Walpole Brothers (Irish Linens), a private circulating library, James Garner (a chemist), the Lady Agents (a domestic employment agency), a manufacturer of window blinds, J Mallan (surgeon-dentist) and just round the corner in Hornton Street the West London Type Writing Agency.

Across the road on the south side of the street was an irregular block of houses simply called The Terrace.

The Terrace Kensington High Street 1892 GN240

A boy sits and plays, with something (some device with balls – I can’t make it out) outside number 1.

Our colourful friend Jubal Webb lived at number 2, seen below. It was he who was responsible for the whole block being redeveloped.  A builder named Mr Cave built the current set of shops and flats in 1893-4, originally called the Promenade but now know as 129-161 Kensington High Street.

The Terrace 1-4 GN107

Another boy (or is it the same one?) leans against the railings on the left, almost out of the picture with a dog at his feet.

The picture below shows the end of The Terrace with a house called Shaftesbury House, a cottage and the side of the Adam and Eve public house.

Shaftesbury House, cottage and part of Adam and Eve 1892 GN250

Anyone who knows the modern street will realise that there is a covered entrance to a mews here, Adam and Eve Mews in fact. The Mews and the buildings on either side of it were constructed by another developer, William Willett, an even more interesting character than Jubal Webb, but more of him another day perhaps. The pub was actually moved abd became number 163 (Hotel Chocolat now). The street continues with number 165 (Claire’s Accessories). If you could transport those two back to the 1890s you would probably find many customers.

To the right of the picture you can see a solitary figure, a woman, bare-headed it seems to me with her hair down, wrapped up in a coat and maybe a shawl. There’s a story there if you could only see more.

There are many more pictures of Kensington High Street, and many more stories to tell but I’ve confined myself this week to the work of H and R Stiles. One final view looks back the way we came, eastwards. The turning by the pub is the top of Earls Court Road. Opposite are the trees by the entrance to Holland Park, still a private residence at this time.

Kensington High Street looking east GN15

More horse buses and wagons, (that’s a Derry and Toms wagon on the left) and on the right a couple walk arm in arm, shielded from the sun, and the photographer by an umbrella. I want to ask her to take it down for a moment and stand still so we can have a proper look at them. But they’ll never know I was interested.


As I said, this is one of many possible posts about Kensington High Street and not the end of the Stiles brothers’ contribution to the blog either. I leaned heavily on the Survey of London on the tricky matter of the Terrace so once again thanks to its authors and publishers.

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